Some of you may have noticed that in my last post I attached the reward of step eight to step seven: one of the dangers of writing about a text without having it open before you. Step seven, being peacemakers, reveals the children of God. On the ladder of the beatitudes, poverty and mourning draw the grace of the Holy Spirit who produces meekness and hunger and thirst for righteousness. Righteousness, because it is nothing else but the love for God, leads to mercy, the willing sharing in the pain of others, because the love for God leads to the love for neighbour. Mercy purifies the heart so that we can see God there. Seeing God makes us like God: we are transformed into peacemakers bringing the light and peace of God where ever we go and thus we are called children of God. This is the fullness, the seventh step.
The eighth step is persecution for righteousness sake. St. John Chrysostom says that Jesus added this verse so that we would not think that one should seek peace (lack of conflict) at all costs. Chrysostom goes on to clarify that when we help others we are being righteous.
The eighth step has the most explanation: it goes on for three verses. Persecution is expanded to include reviling and evil speaking. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad” Jesus exhorts us, “for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” This eighth step is the eschatological step, the new day, the day transcending all days, the day that colors all days. Persecution, misunderstanding, slander: these are the ways we bear with Christ the burdens of our neighbour. We share in the sufferings of Christ; we truly are His body.
We are surprised when those we love do not see what we see, when what brings us so much joy and peace is perceived only as a threat. How could it be any other way? Christ came to His own and His own did not receive him: as with the head, so with the body. It is in bearing the death of rejection that we with Christ conquer death. It is in passing through suffering that we shine with the Light of the Transfiguration so that in the end even our persecutors (perhaps especially our persecutors) see the light—whether in this life or the next.